1 Memories of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands July 2016 – Trip Report
Part 1 Germany
My son, mother, and I went on a European Tour in July 2016, and this is the trip report. We went to Nuremburg, Germany, Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany, Freiburg im Bresigau, Germany, Cologne, Germany, Brussels, Belgium, Bruges, Belgium, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Gouda, the Netherlands, and Leiden, the Netherlands. It was mom’s first trip to Europe so this was a very exciting adventure. We left the USA on July 1, 2016 and came back July 19, 2016. At first my mom was a little apprehensive about making a journey like this, based upon the cost. She wasn’t sure it was worth it. As soon as we arrived in Europe, she really got into the trip, and was ready to go before the rest of us every morning. She’s also studying German for her next trip. So it must have been worth it. As you read this I hope you are thinking of how you can make a similar trip. My goal is to help and inspire other travelers to go see the places they have always dreamed of seeing. You can make a journey like this too. So after reading go make some plans. Go Artway Today!
Traveling with a multi-generational group
We had three generations of us on the trip. Who would have guessed that, the oldest among us was the one who was the most excited to get up and get going every day, and the first to recommend an evening walk, if we finished all of our scheduled activities. We didn’t plan as many tower climbs as is usual however, mom made it up without compliant at the castle tower in Nuremburg and two windmills in the Netherlands. So if traveling with a multi-generational group you may need to alter your plans to include less strenuous hiking, more use of public transportation, etc. This can include accommodating the younger, as well as the older, don’t forget, if traveling with small children, they have much shorter legs. We stayed near the train station and sites each time, so location of the hotel is also paramount. Read my earlier post titled “How Can You Select a Hotel in Europe? – Travel Tips” for more information on hotel selection. We also had a teenager with us. Keep in mind, they will want to be connected with friends at home. Our teenager had a cell phone that he used Wi-fi at the hotel to send messages back home. This saved us on having an international plan on his phone. Also, in the planning, make sure you include an activity or wish item from each person in the group, so they feel included. I think traveling with a Multi-generational group can be a lot of fun. We made memories to last a lifetime. Traveling with my mom and son reminded me of the trips to Disney I took with my grandmother and mother when I was young! Don’t be afraid of planning a trip with your extended family, it can add to the joy, just plan accordingly.
Trains are good. We traveled by train to get from place to place on this trip. Well, except of course we flew from the US to Europe. I love traveling by train. It’s so easy. We just bought point to point tickets at the train stations. We got our longer and international tickets two days in advance each time but shorter trips we just went to the train station after checking the schedule online and bought a ticket to our destination. The trains are comfortable and go pretty much everywhere. We also enjoyed the convenience of a lunch counter and ate our lunch on the trains when it was time to eat. Trains are the way to travel, their comfortable, on time, and quick.
Get ready for stairs and small rooms. We stayed two nights at all hotels except Nuremberg (3 nights) and Amsterdam (6 nights). We booked a triple every time but they are still small. We had breakfast included with the room everywhere. I recommend adding the breakfast where available it’s usually worth the price just to get coffee. Most hotels had a nice selection of cheese, meats, pastry, butter, and fruit. Some had eggs and bacon but expect cheese, cold meat, and pastry. More choices and heartier options where available in Germany than in Belgium and The Netherlands. We like hotels that are close to the sights and food. I would pick location over price and amenities.
Work less. We just went with a school type book bag/backpack each. The lighter the better. There are, long walks between flights, long waits for trains, hills, lugging up onto racks, stowing in compartments, cobblestones, tunnels, and all manner of steps that you must transverse with your belongings in tow. Luggage can be heavy, packing light frees you up from the work of travel. This allows you to enjoy the wonder of first seeing a place when walking from the train station to the hotel without the burden of lugging heavy bags.
Imperial Castle on a hill with easy to walk medieval old town. We arrived to Nuremburg airport and took the U-Bahn to the Central Train Station. We were early and couldn’t check into our room until 5pm due to the hotel not having a 24 hour reception. We rented a locker at the train station to leave our bags and went sightseeing. If you find yourself in the same position, remember most main train stations have lockers that you can rent for a small fee. We toured the handwerkerhof (artisan souvenir market), Lorenzkirche gothic church, and the Market square while waiting for check in time. We also got some fresh raspberries from a street vender. They were so good! Then we had dinner at the beergarden just behind the castle; Nurnburgers, bread, and potato salad. YUM! Later we went to an island in the river just behind the Heilig-Geist-Spital where they had set up a summer beach party. This was totally unexpected!
The next day we went to the German National Museum. There’s a lot to see here. Art from the middle ages to modern times, as well as many folk items, and a toy museum. I especially enjoyed the folk exhibits. They had some recreated old Bavarian farm house interiors, complete will all the furniture, woodwork, and artifacts. In addition, there was a whole gallery of musical instruments. We also enjoyed the small adjacent toy museum. It was full of neat old doll houses. That evening we happened upon a Romanian street festival. They had music, food, and folk dance.
On the last day in Nurnberg we visited the Castel. The Castel is amazing. It’s mostly intact, or rebuilt, so you can really imagine how it was during the days of the Holy Roman Empire, when Nuremburg was a free imperial city. We climbed the tower for some great views, and even visited the deep well. The tour is only in German but it’s still interesting, and as the title notes it’s deep. That afternoon we toured the rest of the old town that we had missed, including all of the covered bridges. Nuremburg really has a nice old town that is easy to walk around.
Best memory – mass of beer at beergarden behind castle, island beach, and eating Nurnbergers.
Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany
Impeccably preserved fairy tale like medieval hill town. We arrived earlier than check in again and left our bags at the hotel. We just walked around the old town. Done a bit of shopping and walked the old town walls. I got some wooden toys for the kids. It was great fun to just meander down the old cobblestone lanes with no real itinerary for the day, beyond meandering. I especially enjoyed walking the old town wall. At every step there’s a picturesque view of either the old town, or Germany beyond, through the loopholes. That evening we took the night watchman’s tour. It was very crowded but extremely entertaining. I can see why it’s so popular.
The next day we toured the St. Jakob church. I especially enjoyed the wooden altarpiece. We had lunch just off the main market square with classic German cuisine. I had the pig knuckle. That afternoon we hiked out of town just past the old castle gardens. It was nice to be in the country side. Very peaceful with wonderful views of the city. I think my son really enjoyed this walk in the country. It was a chance to sort of play, even though he was mostly grown out of playing. That evening we went to the supermarket near the train station for dinner and toured a graveyard on the way back into the walled portion of the city. I loved Rothenberg ob der Tauber. It was full of tourist, full of souvenir and Christmas ornaments shops, and crowded in the midday. But the town is so lovely, and your pictures will be awesome, so you should go too!
Best memory – “Walking out of town into the country side for the views looking back at Rothenberg, ob der Tauber”
Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
In the middle of the black forest town with red stoned Münster, old castle hill (Schlossberg), and water filled Bächle in old town streets. We had planned on touring the Münster but the inside was closed for setting up the wine festival. We walked around the old town and eventually made our way up the Schlossberg. You can ride an elevator up inside the rock – pretty cool. We had dinner at the beergarden. It was lively as a football (soccer for us USA folks) match was on the television. We didn’t have a team to cheer for but we enjoyed anyway.
On our first full day we left town to go to Gutach. We were headed to the Vogtsbauernhof (open air Black Forest Museum). We did have a transportation mishap on the way. We got on the wrong train somewhere in the black forest. We immediately realized our mistake and got off at the next station. We had trouble viewing schedules, as there wasn’t an actual station just a stop and a parking lot. A local helped us and noted that we could use our train ticket to ride the bus instead, which headed to our destination. Well the wait for the bus was some time, so we took a taxi instead. It was nice to ride in a car in Black Forest, so the little mistake was really quite nice. We all loved the open air museum. They had old farm buildings, farm equipment, farm animals, and plenty of vendors for food and souvenirs. This is a great site for families and is in the middle of the Black Forest with rolling hills in all directions. I really liked seeing how the people, who lived in isolation in the wilderness of the black forest, had to be self-sufficient. When we got back to town the wine festival was in full force. It was big fun. You buy a commemorative glass, and then you can try the wines of local wineries along with food and music. The Black Forest and Frieburg is so beautiful!
Best memories – black forest cake at Vogtsbauernhof, Wine Festival.
Big city with the largest gothic cathedral in Germany. We wanted to stop in Paris on the way to Brussels with a small layover so mom could say she’s been to France. When we mentioned the potential stop over to the attendant at the train station. He said “you must be rich”. No we replied. “This will be very expensive and you will have to buy the ticket from Paris to Brussels in Paris, why don’t you stop at Cologne instead?” So that is what we did. We just wanted to see the cathedral and it’s located just outside the train station, so perfect layover site. We toured the cathedral. it’s massive and ever so crowded. It really is an impressive structure and wasn’t completed until modern times in 1880, started in 1248, wow over 600 years to build!
Best memories – “Oh my, that spire is so tall I can’t back up enough to get a picture”!